Check In w/ the Blue Mirror


What We're Hearing

In his review of a different chapter of Jay 2 tha Z's ongoing autobiographical/autoentrepreneurial project, the dean makes the following persuasive observation:

The connect b/t the business, man and the chairman of the board is an obvious one, but merits mentioning nevertheless. A different member of the VV diaspora (the best faculty a music and movie loving boy could want in the 80s), Gary Giddins might take it further. He'd draw the line b/t Sinatra and Der Bingle, Der Bingle and the minstrel circuit, the tricky bidness of makeup and voice. He might take us then to Bert Williams, one of the true kings of the 20th c. That would then give us a route back to really understand the business, man.

Get it: We are at the crossroads again. And we're on our knees.

Take this and put it in context:


What We're Hearing: Pops Alone and Together

The more we hear this piece, the more we hear a before and after story about ensemble playing.

There is one approach to the ensemble at the beginning, one where the melody is owned collectively. The ensemble rolls for foaty seconds w/ the 4 piece rhythm section, making a deep bottom. It's all for one.

Then there's a cornet/banjo break, followed by the clarinet/banjo break, really just set ups for the drama of the big pops solo moment that gets all of the attention. (Johnny Dodds squallers his response in contrast to Pops' first break, which is short, dynamic and versatile, and we don't knock it, but because it comes after, it sounds like he's just trynta shout over Pops' imagination, especially in the first two or three bars of his second run through of the chorus.)

And we don't argue the fact that from about a minute and fifty to about two and thirtyfive, pops the soloist is all there is, maybe all there is in the universe -- Emerson's transparent eyeball. We all already know that that's why we call him Pops: he fathered the 20th century by being all of it and by giving it all of his being. So when Ted Gioia or Terry Teachout* make their appropriate and now canonical claim that this is the moment when he's 'venting modern jazz, they are stating a matter of fact.

But our attention is drawn to the one for all final chorus, the last 25 seconds of the song. The melody is reframed, and it makes a new sense, not because of the solo runs leading into it; they are just drama. Rather because Pops owns the whole thing and the ensemble is hanging in w/ his every not making groove groove, making the song really sing.

We're not certain this is modern vs. old NO any more than it is Pops vs. the band. We think it goes a different way. We think Hot 7 had to make a song out of those solo choruses, a song w/ enough drama to take back the hearts and minds of the audience after the solos. And in this case they did so by exceeding themselves as soloists, as difficult as that may seem in hindsight.

We also think this is part of the essential knowhow that Pops brings to the game when he is on his best. He uses the solo and the ensemble, the one for all and all for one, to great dramatic purpose. We don't need to strum our fingers over the body of his work. We just need to press play on "Struttin' with Some Barbecue." It is a scientist's simple lesson on the interplay between individual and group making the most memorable drama.

Take it. Take it.


* "However 'Potato Head Blues' came to be, it is one of the greatest solos recorded by a jazzman, a landmark of modern music that long ago achieved iconic status, both music and cultural."


Erzulie, Make Us Reach in the Files

The trick in ancient to future is to be in more than one time at a place. Like Erzulie, who's both rada and petwo. It's the old tricky like this, tricky like that manuva. Chea.

A weekend ago, the VV threw us a clue in this direction and asked us to pay attention to Greg Nice. We took it up like a gift left on the roadside, and started digging though the Nice and Smooth crates. Cause this is how we take.

As we lissened, what we found was a profound betweenness to their work. It was more than the dang diggy dang wordplay of the late 70s, and it had more than the odor of the streets that rap took up quick in the first new school. There was a love of the dancehall, a love of the battle, a love of the streets and a love of the afrofuture in egypt jewel of the nile. It's all packed in the titles, lyrics and music of two songs, "Old to the New" and, even moreso, "Same Old Brand New Style (I Can't Wait)." These two mouthfuls would feed a supperful of hungry posts here at the redlight. To paraphrase, We are always impatient for the recurrence of the old in the definitively new. Always for the first time, and for the first time, just like always. Ahh, effervescence.

In fact, just like when you call on the loa, you get more than you ask for. And it was then that we heard Dewey Redman, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins, the masters of conjurng the old and the new. Can't wait, you dig?

So let's cite the bullets

While we're on this, let's mark again: we have much to say about Smooth's verse in Same Old. Brovah calls a lotta names, but finally gets to this:

I'll beat you like Bruce, when he turned into Cato.
Who be the winner, the snake or the monkey?
Hard to tell, but this beat, this sh*t sure is funky.

We are not sure what's going on here, but this is what we mean when we say, you see? Sh*t made us break out the Harold Courlander (you know, the new school remake of the prewar sociology and anthropology, and an old school folklore author) and ask all about the snake and the monkey, cause it's one of those things that makes you go hmmmm... while you're walking to the library. And we found some good stuff 'bout gold weights and such, but nothing that stuck the snake in a tangle w/ a monkey. So we asked the internets and we got a reference to some razzledazzle, and even if it has nothing to do w/ snake and monkey proper, we're gonna call it.

That's the way Lady Erzulie would call it, too, in the in between of the in between.

Rock on. Shock on. Get on. Get on.
Rock on. To the breakadawn.


Don't You Want to Go?

For those displaced (and that's all of us -- we are all out of the place we are meant to be), home is away, out of reach. For that reason, moving on is as inevitable as the arithmetic of footsteps: you know, "One and one is two." Just as inevitable is a sense of longing, the sense that loss can be restored, that it is possible to leave this mean old place and return to a better one, the place you come from.

Call it Eshu's paradox: He who stands at the crossroads urging you on, is the same who walks by you when you travel home to your final resting place. How is it that in the blues about being homesick, "Ever time de trains pass/I wants to go somewhere"? Langston goes on to capture the emotional paradox. "To keep from crying/I opens my mouth an' laughs." And there, with both ends of the equation in his hands, he's conjures Eshu.

It's a temptation to try to get more meaning out of a blues song than it offers. Brovah Elijah Wald is probably the best teacher on this subject. The song is nothing more or less than where it stands in a jukebox, a record company's ledger, and the variations from one version to the next.

Before it was a thesis/anthem that demanded a crackerrock antithesis/antianthem about, of all places, Alabama, "Sweet Home Chicago" was nothing more or less than a simple rambling song. It marks itself with cryptic references of places too distant to imagine (California, Des Moines Ioway, and Chicago). And it cries a lonesome wail inviting companionship on the ramble ("Baby, honey don't you want to go?" -- a question asked in a way that leads the listener to wonder whether Johnson is begging her because she's saying no). Going home? Rambling? Alone? Together? Eshu will tell us these cannot be separated, anymore than laughing and crying.

As we listened, we began hearing the variations more clearly. There's Kokomo and the original that comes 6 years later. There's "Sweet" by a bunch of other names, like "Don't You Want To?" You can go to Chicago or the country. You can go home or you can leave home forever. Eshu knows that when you are on your knees at the crossroads your are always coming and going. So we're reloading a clip of bullets for your own exercise in versionology:
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
We're uncertain about any direct line between any of these songs, 'cept perhaps the line drawn by Wald between Kokomo Arnold and Johnson's original retake. Pure sharkbiting. This is a roots maneuver and we've got nothing more to say about this kinda trickery but that you better think it's still going on all over the panhiphop tradition, and has been from ancient to future. In this way, we can take up all the retakes, from Johnson's own to Pyeng Threadgill's, and we can trace a line of longing, a longing to get back home to you name it: the people we want to be with; the people we lost; the slow groove of good loving that we been missing; you name it.

But there's more to the tradition that working the repeater pencil to draw a line between your audience and your pocketbook. There is something about coming and going that is more than just passing a coin from one hand to another.

There is the temptation to go back. When we we're studying up for this piece we read through the primitive liner notes of musicologist Frederic Ramsey, Jr., who anthropolgized the Lapsey Band's approach to Albert Ayler. He gave voice to this temptation. "As a tentative but not binding objective, we hoped to tap as many sources as possible that would lead us back to the music and the story of the period 1860 to 1900." But the Laspey's are pure ancient to future, music from the spaceways. We give Ramsey props for his diligence when we say he's got the direction wrong. Home is away, not back.

This is why we our soul stirs when we hear the line drawn between Johnson, who's pact w/ the devil is the stuff of movies by the Coen Bros, and Arizona Dranes, or even more, the I.C. Glee Quartet. That's the home: the place we can only wish for after we've lost it.

Eshu's a homesick loa, and he knows that is a joyful disease because it promises the slow groove of return.



A week past now, we were thinking on the power of Bitches Brew. Something about 40 years brought us back. From there we travelled a dusty road to Sonny Sharrock. The next fork took us to Wayne Shorter's super new, then back, as you might expect, first to Bitches Brew and then to its precursors. We say ancient to future, and it is paths like this we represent. The crossroad where the past crosses itself with the new and the new crosses with the past.

Here we fell down on our knees, the weight of the pondering upon us. Gazing in all directions we heard an echo, from the time before Miles plugged in, and the time when, after Miles plugged in, he and his fraternal twin brother Wayne, decided to part.

We offer this clip for your own pondering.

The brothers laid the tracks down once together in June 1967* as ensemble pieces. It's the great Columbia quintet on these tracks, and they are in fine form. The compositions, all Shorter's, are developed as relaxed duet melodies, played by both brothers in unison, and long solos developed over Tony Williams' steady glide, and Ron Carter's reminder that there is beat that holds it all together.

The later versions were laid down in August 1969, as Miles and Wayne were in the middle of Bitches Brew, and though the musicians walk across from the one session to the other, the tracks on Super Nova are Wayne's tracks. They are the tracks of a single leader, separated from his brother. He's switched from tenor to soprano. The band is no longer the standard quintet, but a rhythm heavy line up w/ two guitarists, Jack Dejohnette (who rocks the house whenever he find the place), and additional percussion (Chick Corea on drums?).

The separation is not complete. The brothers play together into the early 70s. Wayne describes the motivation as shared: Well, I had a time limit for myself in a sense. Five years with a band -- like with Art Blakey -- that's enough. With Miles it was a little more than five years... Miles was saying [whispers]: 'Don't you think it's time for you to get your own band?' And I had so many ideas, and the music was coming out like water and everything, and I said, 'Yeah. I think it's time. I think it's really time.'"† But the separation is underway.

  • "Water Babies," Wayne Shorter (ss), John McLaughlin (ac-g, el-g), Sonny Sharrock (el-g), Miroslav Vitous (b), Chick Corea (d, vib), Jack DeJohnette (d, per). August 29, 1969.
  • "Water Babies," Miles Davis (tp), Wayne Shorter (ts), Herbie Hancock (p), Ron Carter (b), Tony Williams (d). June 7, 1967
  • "Capricorn," Wayne Shorter (ss), John McLaughlin (ac-g, el-g), Sonny Sharrock (el-g), Miroslav Vitous (b), Chick Corea (d, vib), Jack DeJohnette (d, per). August 29, 1969.
  • "Capricorn," Miles Davis (tp), Wayne Shorter (ts), Herbie Hancock (p), Ron Carter (b), Tony Williams (d). June 13, 1967
  • "Sweet Pea," Wayne Shorter (ss), John McLaughlin (ac-g, el-g), Sonny Sharrock (el-g), Miroslav Vitous (b), Chick Corea (d, vib), Jack DeJohnette (d, per). August 29, 1969.
  • "Sweet Pea," Miles Davis (tp), Wayne Shorter (ts), Herbie Hancock (p), Ron Carter (b), Tony Williams (d). June 23, 1967

We approach September 26, the feast of the twins. The loa remind us that the twins are the most ancient, and tricky, and that they have power over water and healing, as well as separation and reunity.

After Wayne left Miles, they both had plenty of 'splaining to do, as much to themselves as any. One of the ways Wayne tells the story is here,† and perhaps the most noteworthy portion is doubled down over @ the red light. Miles worked heavily between conjuring muses and conjuring doubles, before and after his work with Wayne.

After listening and pondering at this crossroads we think we should prepare to consult the jumeaux and ask their help. We walk in separation from so much more than our lost brothers. We want their aid with those blues.

* We have much respect for the brovahs @ the Jazz Discography Project for making the chronology of an era more visible to mere mortals.

† Wayne Shorter is usually generous in his interviews, and this one is along those lines.


Make a Change: A Little Archeology on Broom Dusting

As already noted over @ the red light, we've been lissening to Robert Johnson, and it has prompted us to think about the transactions that make up the tradition we're working. It is a tradition of, among other things, leaving and returning, rambling and coming home. And that powerful metaphor builds both content and form. The constant revision of songs, and the constant reversion to earlier songs are part of the same motion (and the same emotion of loss and reconciliation -- should we second this?).

And as we've been hearing Rob't, we've been hearing the echoes of things past and present. So we thought we would load up a clip of those echoes for you.

There's really no revelation here, is there? The first few bullets are drawn in part from ElijahWald's close reading of the body and soul of Rob't Johnson's work, Escaping the Delta, a book for which we have much proper respect. The last three are versions we have been unable to forget. The cumulative story is nothing but that of persistent creolization of the same material. But as it moves, the material absorbs again and again its own opposites. The major themes are straightforward: leaving at the end of something bad and getting a fresh start. They are deep in nuance, too: the broomsweep has hoodoo resonance; the tension between giving up and getting started again has sweet promise and sad consequence on both ends -- both plea and curse in the same step. There is no one pattern of right and wrong: there's plenty of wrong doing and quitting going on, and in enough directions to make a good soap opera. The big, restlessmaking horizon calls from faraway, but the call may also to be return home like the prodigal, giving up on the taking business for something more generous. But if the themes are straightforward, they are turned and turned again in the retelling.


In the last four months, we shoulda been here more, but it's like that, so we have nothing more to say about our absence. We are just glad to be back. We'll come back to the unfinished work, too, especially the big opus on OB4CL. The force of the work is to great to put it down forever.


Body and Soul: Hawk Reversions Himself

Body and Soul Coleman Hawkins

Just because he dropped the reference version, doesn't mean the Hawk would leave the tune alone. Rather he deviled and re-deviled it. we're pretty sure his primary point is that he can do it again and not be the same. The desperate exchange of body for soul, the Faustian heartbreak in the song, is easy to lose when this is the approach. Therefore, it is interesting how he brings the heartbreak back into all three versions. Lissen for it.

  • Coleman Hawkins with Billy Byers and His Orchestra, "Body and Soul." We're not sure Hawk gentles himself into this smoothjazz ensemble, but then maybe that's the point. By the end, its his voice alone, not even against the orchestra.
  • Coleman Hawkins, "Picasso." Here all w/ both accompaniment and melody dropped, Hawk takes on blues and the abstract truth. We believe this bullet ranks w/ Armstrong/Hines "Weather Bird" as an intellectual exercise, even if it lacks the zing the two duelists put into their piece. It is, of course, about the breakdown that occurs when you are alone. That's the point. It's after the tragic ending of the reference version, "an echo of a tale that's been told."


Working Through OB4CL: P R O S P E C T

There's no way we will start at the beginning, because the crossroads is always the middle of more than one thing. And that's the way. Word to your moms.

:: makes a small circle of gunpowder on the ground ::
:: centers a bottle of henny in the circle ::
:: scatters pepperflakes ::
:: bows head ::

  • Wu Tang Clan, "Can It All Be So Simple" is the emblem of both what comes before OB4CL and the wish for a better time before. It is, therefore service to the lwas in the form of ingnition, match to the ring of gunpowder.
And so we begin.

We begin making a small altar that places OB4CL at the foot of the tradition, knowing that there are those who, when they come by, will take up pieces, and leave other pieces behind. And that's the way. Word to your moms.

And this because in its own way, OB4CL is itself an ilé, a shrine that looks in all directions at once. Up. Down. Side to side.

What we will do here is locate our ilé making project to think through the slab. What we build here, then, is a shrine to a shrine, which will serve as a call to those who want to hear it.

OB4CL then. Seven threads, then, that run through it.
  1. Movement: "We gotta migrate."
  2. Collage: "poisonous paragraphs."
  3. The damning (oppressing) and redeeming (liberating) power of business: "slang rap democracy."
  4. Clan and Gang and Family: "this rap wonderama team got drama"
  5. Secret knowledge: "It's manifested. The gods work like appliances."
  6. Secret identity: "a.k.a."
  7. Crossing over: "Chef may resign to boat across the Verrazano."
Each of these threads is pending, and each starts in the full fabric of the tradition. We will work them back into the tradition, but leave them still pending. And that's the way. Word to your Moms.

When we hear Rae tell the fellas in OutKast, "We handling the earth right now," we take his word as bond. We cannot get past this statement without thinking first of Nas and the more than brilliant "The World is Yours." Yes, yes y'all. We think on that view @ the beginning of the first Scarface that is the omega of Tony Montana's dream to get out. We read Rae different, though. We think that he's telling us that he's already there. "It's the pot of gold right here man. This is it, man, this is glory." We think he's not signifying here. Nah. He's representing.

Here, hit this Henny. Fuse is already lit.


Body and Soul: Art Tatum

When we reconcile the song to the solo, we find more confusion in the pianoed versions of B&S than either the vocalized or tenorized. It may be that Hawk's footprint is so large he leaves room for nothing but gravity, but we don't think so. It may just be that the too many piano renditions come at the song with a lightfingered musical approach, which isn't bad initself, but something that leaves at least this lissener wondering where the song's torch went.

One exception to this rule the Art Tatum solo version that he dropped in that legendary two day blast for Norman Granz in the early 50s that produced 8 volumes of the good sh*t.

His take on B&S begins lagging, teasing sadness from the melody. Even as Tatum's imagination takes over the song, he resists the temptation to pep it up, as he does earlier in the disc (we gots no session records at our grasp, so we can't tell whether it really comes first) with his take on "Love for Sale." It's in the second chorus, though, when he proves how subtly he conceives of the song. There he interpolates a sweet passage from "Nobody Knows...," making the bluesy connection from pain to salvation. Which is the song's all about it.

Here you go:


Is There Confusion?

A friend asked us to throw down some recommendations on Betty Davis, an easy enough task. We'll load up a clip in no time.

But she's left us some devilishly difficult 2ns, and we hesitate to throw such things into anyone's field of vision without offering a few prayers of our own.

:: pours a little liquor on the ground::

In Betty's work there's the groove, the voice and the visuals. And then there's sex (as in m/f) and beauty (as in aesthetics). They pile up all over Betty, just as she wanted, but, if the record (as in public, and as opposed to rekkids, slabs, 2ns or the whathaveyous we use to refer to the work in the tradition) tells us anything, it is that we treat her work as a ball of confusion.

Light in the Attic's rediscovery of Betty Davis was not only inevitable, but long overdue. Erudite cratediggers shoulda, coulda, woulda found their way to her stuff in the Thriller era 80s, instead of waiting 'til the Lady Gaga and Shakira era* 00s if they were brave enough. There must have been business hurdles they couldn't jump, or her sh1t woulda been loose again in the market before Rick James was smoking crack.

When Betty's albums first hit the racks there was no shortage of demand for groove. For those of us lissenning so late in the game, the trick is to distinguish it from all of the lofty precursors assigned in hindsight to Betty's list of influences. She's got deepsoul in her biography: the Jimi Hendrix boo rumor, the Miles Davis husband portion of her biography, the Greg Errico connection to Sly Stone and the Larry Graham connection to Graham Central Station. But we gotta call her sh1t her own. She shakes it fast, and right in front of us. She's not hanging behind it, waiting for us to find her lurking.

Her voice has more to do w/ Gil Scott Heron or the Last Poets, than Chaka Kahn, Patti Labelle, Marva Whitney or Vicki Anderson. The listed queenz all have something to tell us, but Betty is working hard to teach us a lesson on top of it. This expressly didactic tone in her voice sometimes feels, at least after the fact of nearly four decades, like a lecture on how to get the whole sexual power thing right. The too easy thing to do today is to call her ahead of her time. There is something much more fair to her than to call her the forerunner of a sexual revolution that is now over. She's only as good a singer as James "Blood" Ulmer, but that's the point. And that is why she sounds more right to lissenners versed in hearing Ma Rainey or Missy Elliot.

Then there's her body of visual work†, prolly the biggest source of distraction for fans and detractors. It's not surprising that someone who began her career doing fashion spreads for girls magazines has an eye for her own appearance, and a strong sense of how to push people around using that media. Her visual rhetoric, a move she busted the streets 7 years before Prince delivered his Dirty Mind,‡ is an outmoving spiral of irony and sincerity. It doesn't stop being one or the other. Just like Prince, Betty uses sex to write checks she can't fully cash. Just deal and move on. There's no point in averting your eyes, even if it won't free your ass when you keep on staring.

So, like Marvin says: "Come on, get to this":
These bullets are more than Brechtian exercises in drawing the lissener into a trap of desire x guilt = historical consciousness. They are an articulation of a tension the harsh voice of the day today and the sweet voice that promises something better that made Phillis Wheatley make a fetish of looking to the east (as in back across the Atlantic) to a creole dawn.

About 60 years before Betty Davis invited us to meet her at these crossroads to witness her conjure a Black Madonna, Jessie Fauset, who's now a sister of Maman Brigitte, invited us to pray to another angel, Sojourner Truth:

Symbolic mother, we thy myriad sons,
Pounding our stubborn heart on Freedom's bars,
Clutching our birthright, fight with faces set
Still visioning the stars.

This is Betty's tradition. This is our tradition and we're happy to join her there. So high you can't get over it. So low you can't get under it. It goes on and on and on and on. To the break of dawn.

* We got nothing bad to say about these followers of Madonna. They are well-educated and offer a theory of action. There's just so much more things to say.

, etc.

, etc.


Working Through: P R O S P E C T

Now that we are moving our quicker thoughts, glimpses and lissening notes over to the red light, the blue light becomes the place for our longer thoughts only. The Body and Soul Project, still underway, is the best and maybe the only example of what we gonna be up to.

In upcoming weeks, we'll be working through extended exercises that we will call working through. The all about will remain the same, though. We're gonna make the fabric of what the AEC called ancient to future out of other peoples' threads.

Five starting points:
  • James Weldon Johnson, The Book of American Negro Poetry
  • Devilin.' This thinking was given to us by Allen Lowe, a heroic anthologist, who proves there is salvation at the crossroads between what we know and the new details we learn.
  • Raekwon, Only Built 4 Cuban Links
  • Goodie Mob, Soul Food
  • OutKast, Aquemini
There's plenty of other threads, and we expect to work them in as we go. The last three are, obviously, an indulgence in the love massive we have for a body of hiphop that takes its place in a history it enacts.

In the mean time, we'll keep elaborating on the threads we're already playing out:
  • Life and Times of Marvin Gaye (what ever happened to that one, anyway).
  • Body and Soul
  • Versionology. The psuedoscience that the old world likes to label variation on a theme (to be confused w/ fugues and fugue states, conditions it treats with escalating gravity, hoping to cure it w/ copyright and other controls.).


Body and Soul: Vocal Approaches/Lyrics

By now, we've laid out one of those pictures with two sides.* On one side we have "Body and Soul" the framework for heroic solo instrumentalism.† On the other, we introduced a foundational post, where the song stands up in its earliest versions as a singer's tune.‡

The singers remind us that it's a song w/ lyrics, not just Johnny Green's work, a torchy melody wrapped around some tough chord changes that have lured the mighty tenors of the 20th c. into a titanic struggle with one another.

First, a couple of bullets:
  • Frank Sinatra, "Body and Soul" (1947). Another reference version. Blue-eyed soul worth knowing by heart.
  • Louis Armstrong and His New Sebastian Club Seranaders, "Body and Soul" (1930). We already cited this masterpiece as the beginning of the jazz versions of the song. Listen for Lionel Hampton on the vibes.
  • Sarah Vaughan, "Body and Soul" (1954). From the extraordinary slab, Swingin' Easy, which sports John Malachi on piano, Joe Benjamin on bass, and Roy Haynes brushing out an elegant and gentle groove on drums.
  • Billie Holiday, "Body and Soul" (1940). Includes some soulful bars at the intro and the break by Roy Eldridge, as well as a solid combo composed of Jimmy Powell and Carl Frye alto sax, Kermit Scott tenor sax, Sonny White piano, Lawrence Lucie guitar, John Williams bass, and Harold "Doc" West drums.
Today, though, the words of Edward Heyman, Robert Sour and Frank Eyton draw us. If we discard the bad latinate grammar ("for you I sigh" or "my life a wreck you're making"), the song starts our sad and gets sadder. Rejected, the singer must offer more and more of themselves to prove their devotion. Loss yields surrender, and surrender escalates with more loss. It's excruciating. Each of the first three versions cited above turn on the third verse:

My life a wreck you’re making.
You know I’m yours for just the taking.
I’d gladly surrender
Myself to you body and soul.

Sinatra's version just plays the loser's version straight. Armstrong's ends with the heartbreaking grunt. Sassy's grows torchier with every verse.

But no one suffers in song like Billie Holiday. For all others, "Body and Soul" is a about giving up it up after it won't matter. Lady takes a sad song, flips one word -- "wreck" goes to "hell" without the author's permission -- in the first line of the third verse, and makes it one of spiritual loss.

My life a hell you’re making
You know I’m yours for just the takin’
I’d gladly surrender
Myself to you, body and soul

She's giving up her soul, not her body. In other versions it the other way around. And where others foreshorten the song, lyrically, she drags out Heyman, Sour and Green for all its worth:

What lies before me?
A future that’s stormy
A winter that’s gray and cold

Unless there’s magic
The end will be tragic
And echo a tale that’s been told
So often

With her recast version, we can almost re-read the entire song, line by line, as a version of "Crossroads Blues." In the face of a stormy future (no one sings about bad the promise of bad weather better than the Lady), she begs for a spell to stave off the too familiar sad ending.

Due to this dubscience, the final verse takes on its own totally new meaning:

My life revolves about you
What earthly good am I without you?
Oh I tell you I mean it
I’m all for you, body and soul

Earthly good? None. The tossed away remains of this Faustian bargain have no heaven, only hell. All for you, body and soul.

* Maybe it's a 7" rekkid, which the people have mislabled a "single" even though it's got an A side and a B side.
† Stop here and here.
‡ Stop here.


School of Ragtime

We're in a 'nothering field again, kings and queenz. We enter w/out as much preparation as we should, really just playas. But we're moved to come off of the wall and enter, even tough we're not ready.

But as we enter we find some of the same things, even if they're arranges differently: You start w/ the darktown swells, raising the standard*; then there's the wild creole style; there's the sexy allure of dance step instructions†; there's the tension between the old world and the new; and then there's the accusations about paving the road to hell.‡ Finally and never to late, there's a buncha scholars who think they missed it, so they go back to find their way back to the roots.

Here's a couple of bullets in the clip for you to marinate on.

  • Scott Joplin, "Ragtime Dance."
  • Air, "Ragtime Dance." We've been lissening to this one since it was an unnaground hit in the vinyl days. Best drum solo in the 70s, a real shoe tickler.◊
You must learn.

* Take partners do the "rag two step", I know you are enjoying yourselves,
You are representatives of dark town's wealth. Stop where you are!

† Ev'rybody now "form a line", Dance nothing but the real ragtime.
Do your best, "forward four steps", you are all very fine.
Let me see you do the "back step prance", Be graceful at ev'ry chance.
You are now enjoying the "ragtime dance". Ev'ry body sing.

‡ The hall was illuminated by electric lights, It certainly was a sight to see;

So many colored folks there without a razor fight... 'Twas a great surprise to me.

Notice. To get the desired effect of "stop time" the pianist will please stamp the heel of one foot heavily upon the floor at every word "stamp." Do not raise the toe of the foot from the floor while stamping. Author.


From Terence's Library

At the risk of being labeled a repeater pencil, what we're all about here is pulling together the threads into a fabric. Fact is there's so much things to say, that we are opening another store, one where we pull our loose and stray threads out before we weave them together here. It's mainly a copybook, but you may want to drop by to find out what we're working on.



Body and Soul: Prehawk

We've put a tied up a coupla knots in this B&S thread already. Let's now get to the start.

"Body and Soul" is a pop tune, from back in the day when pop tunes came from musical theater. It was a feature song in Three's a Crowd. The versionologist to takes it from the stage, samples it, makes it new by putting it into the tradition. Again and again. That's how we begin.

To this end, let's load a crowd of bullets in the clip from 1930. It's a straightforward case:

  • Ruth Etting, "Body and Soul." Etting was not above living the blues. Check that portion of her bio where her husband shoots her lover and gets a year upstate.
  • Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra, "Body and Soul." The vocal is by Whiteman's trombone player, Jack Fulton. No need to tell you that Whiteman was the Elvis or Eminem of his day, grinding hits that more proper people wanted curbed 'cause they were creating bad habits among the youth. But that's all in the tradition, too.
  • Louis Armstrong* and His Orchestra, "Body and Soul." Odd man out. Here's where the story begins.

* We have so much things to say about the man. We'll be back at it. He basically made the 20th century up from mud and straw in the streets. We're still living under that spell.



All over that Quincy Jones OST. Ready to look through the crates and move on to The Italian Job. We are already everywhere.


Note added 12 hours later: there is something to be said about creating menace w/ what at the time was an "urban" sounding soundtrack in a movie bout terror far away from any city. A future remake should consider using Dock Boggs tunes to make the point. Think on it.


Upcoming Reading

We're behind in our readings. Just wanted to show you that we'll get to it.

In the mean time, we're opening up another front here: commonplace. We think of it more as a copybook, but it's all part of the same on and on and on and on.



Body and Soul -- Reference Version

A few days ago we mapped up a project to go through our stacks of "Body and Soul." We loaded a clip of 38 bullets and began walking the streets of the Diamond, our ear to the ground. At that moment, this project, like every one, became bigger just as we began. We look up. We look down. We get case of the vertigo. For us this means we gotta keep on, even tho the work is so high we can't get over it, and so low we can't get under it. Isn't that the way it is, all the time and any way you choose it. You can find it. You just can't lose it.

So let's lay down the next mark, one that will hold our gaze as we listen to e/thing else.
Constant readers will predict that when we first spun this hit up, it was from the Smithsonian text book. We started listening to it 37 years after it hit the jukebox, and we been listening to it for 33 years. That makes it one of the foundation stones, at least in our pile.

We put these marks down on the first of two days of the martyrs (w/ the other coming in February). As we keep marking this thread up, we'll be putting down what we learn from studying the versions. This versionology is an occult science.

Here, tho, is all we can say today: there is something in the spell cast by a foundation stone. It's not the first. It's not the last. It's the one that holds other to the building. We think that on a day like today, Martyr's Day, this is something to think on. Body and soul.



Something Sweet, But No Twankle

We'll get back to the Body and Soul thread before long.

In the mean time, we were up before the break of dawn, listening to the other J5 and we found more proof of the one and on and on and on. Therefore a couple of bullets:

  • San Juan Government School Girls, "There's a Brown Girl in the Ring." Old school. Direct to tape demo. No overdubs. No sampling. Unnaneath the street. Right from the crossroads.*
  • Jurassic 5, "Brown Girl." The Jurassics were certainly dub scientists, and were signifying in every direction on this cut.
It's a great abundance, even w/out Boney M. Too much to keep it to ourselves.

Find peace in this holy week, kings and queens, and if you stop step in the circle, show me your motion.

* Don't neglect the Girls greatest hit, "Sammie Dead-O."